To hear coach Dabo Swinney tell it, Clemson can win the BCS national championship.
“If I didn’t think we could win a national championship at Clemson, I wouldn’t be here,” Swinney said.
To hear coach Jim Grobe of Wake Forest tell it, Swinney is right.
“I don’t think there’s any question,” Grobe said this week. “I’ve tried to look at as many games as I can, and I vote in the coaches’ poll and I mean, you just can’t help but be impressed with the talent they’ve got.
“A lot of teams have good talent. I think these guys have great talent. But they’re also very well coached. They’ve got a good scheme on offense and they do good things defensively, and their special teams are good.”
Grobe’s goal is to knock the Tigers out of any consideration for college football’s ultimate prize when the Deacons play at Memorial Stadium Saturday at 3:30. But he doesn’t minimize the challenge facing his team against a powerhouse Clemson that many pundits and observers consider to be a legitimate national contender.
Part of the reasoning has to do with the schedule. Now 3-0 after victories over Georgia, S.C. State and N.C. State, the Tigers will face only two more teams likely to be ranked in the Top 25 at game time. Clemson will play at home against Florida State (currently No. 8) on Oct. 19 and travel to South Carolina (No. 12) for the regular-season finale on Nov. 30. ACC rival Miami (No. 15) is not on the schedule.
Grobe said his opinion gets stronger every time he turns on the videotape to study the Tigers.
“You’re going to play a team that’s totally balanced,” Grobe said. “They can go out and run it all day and beat you, and they can go out and throw it all day and beat you. They do a great job of mixing it up.
“This is a completely new challenge, and obviously the biggest challenge is how talented they are. And they’re very well-coached.”
Clemson struggled to beat N.C. State 26-14 on Sept. 19 in a game that turned when an 83-yard run to the end zone by the Wolfpack’s Bryan Underwood was negated by a highly controversial call. The Tigers were far from overwhelming, but Swinney was philosophical about his team’s performance.
“I think it’s a great experience for our team to have to handle adversity and challenges early in the season like that,” Swinney said. “I think that will eventually pay off for us.”
The Tigers’ offense is directed by Tajh Boyd, a 6-1, 225-pound redshirt senior in his third season as starting quarterback. Boyd has completed 56 of 90 passes for 683 yards and six touchdowns, and rushed 32 times for 90 yards and three touchdowns. He’s only 409 yards shy of becoming the third ACC quarterback to amass 10,000 total yards, and needs to complete 24 passes without an interception to break the record of 165 held by Cullen Harper.
“He was the guy we felt we could build the program around,” Swinney said. “He and I kind of came in together, if you will. He was my first quarterback to sign. I got the job and we went out and signed him.
“I knew we were going to have some growing pains and all that kind of stuff, but he’s turned out to be exactly what I hoped he would be – a winner, a leader, a humble young man and a college graduate. He’s achieved a lot of things.”
The Tigers have two of the most dangerous receivers in the conference in Sammy Watkins (19 catches for 242 yards and a touchdown) and Martavis Bryant (10 catches for 160 yards), though Swinney has announced Bryant’s participation against Wake Forest will be limited as a disciplinary measure after his throat-slash gesture against the Wolfpack.
Roderick McDowell leads Clemson with 44 carries for 243 yards.
But so far Swinney has been more impressed with his defense, which ranks fourth in the nation with four sacks a game and fifth with nine tackles for loss a game.
“Our offense has gotten a lot of headlines,” Swinney said. “But I love our defense.”
The Winston-Salem Journal is a news partner of The Charlotte Observer. For more Wake Forest coverage go to http://www.journalnow.com/sports/wfu/
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